If India speaks one language, at least when it comes to sports, then it is cricket. Indians literally eat cricket, sleep cricket and walk cricket. Over the years, the cricket mania has not only increased with the inception of IPL, but the craze has also gone overboard. But what has changed in all these years is that the Indians of today are well-traveled, more physically active, and more aware of international sports.
While other sports in India have been pushed under the carpet and lost to cricket time and again, all that is slowly but steadily changing. There are varied sports like kabaddi, football, volleyball, baseball, among others, that have their own leagues, and investors are not thinking twice about investing in these sporting activities.
Cricket is big money. Yes. But a handful of countries play cricket. On the other hand, millions across the world watch football, and it is more of a universal sport. And this is exactly why Varun Tripuraneni, co-owner of Hyderabad FC, put his monies into the football league. While the European clubs rule the roost, Indians are slowly getting used to their own regional clubs' thanks to Indian Super League. Football has huge potential in India, says Varun candidly.
On the other hand, Abhishek Reddy Kankanala, owner of Hyderabad Black Hawks (volleyball), feels that funneling loads of talented youngsters into one single sport is a colossal waste of talent. He says India is a country with 1.4 billion people. Especially of late, one can easily see that the country has immense athletic talent. He asks, why does it have to 'one size fits all'? His teams recently played at the Prime Volleyball League held at Hyderabad. Abhishek says that PVL showed that volleyball can change to better match the lifestyles of its fans. He shares that the league format is much quicker and more intense than the standard version – an hour and a half per match, 15 points to win, with sudden death, super point, and super-serve. Even if there are just 10 minutes to go, PVL will thrill you, he adds, saying that this is volleyball re-imagined from the ground up for India.
Then there is S Ramachandra Reddy, chairman of Telangana Baseball Association. He says while baseball has a long way to go, it will add meaningful experiences that will hook youngsters to the sport.
Then there is actor and rugby player Rahul Bose and Nasser Hussain of Rugby India, who were in Hyderabad some time back for the sub-junior national rugby championships. They say the time to propel the game is now as Indians are looking at other sports and even playing them. While they have been around for dog's years, it is now that rugby is being played in 302 districts out of 730 districts in India. This Rahul Bose says is 40% of the country. He says though they call themselves the least known sport in India as they don't have a television presence, a TV property will happen soon, he reiterates.